With a new national champion crowned and National Signing Day in the books, college football officially goes on hiatus until spring practice. Unless Lane Kiffin decides to bolt USC and head back to Oakland to coach the Raiders, all will be quiet on the college football front — unless you’re a prospect preparing for the NFL draft. But for the rest of the college football world, it’s back to hitting the books full time. In the meantime, here are the National Football Post’s top recruiting classes of 2010.
*Note: Recruits referred to as five-star, four-star, etc. are based off of the grading system of Rivals.com.
Top recruiting classes of 2010
The Big 15
1. Florida: Out of 28 commitments to the Gators, four are five-star recruits and 18 are four-star prospects. The top three players in the class are defensive linemen, led by the freakish DE Ronald Powell. DTs Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley join Powell in creating a potentially dominant future defensive line in Gainesville. The uncertain future of head coach Urban Meyer? Not a problem. The loss of four-star S Demar Dorsey to Michigan on signing day? Still not enough to knock Florida from the top position, especially with the Gators reeling in a talented defensive backfield that includes Under Armour All-American S Jonathan Dowling as well as CBs Josh Shaw and Jaylen Watkins.
2. Texas: The Longhorns’ class is highlighted by DE Jackson Jeffcoat and LB Jordan Hicks, who both announced their intentions to head to Austin last Friday. Head coach Mack Brown made the defensive line a priority this year, grabbing four-star DTs Taylor Bible and Ashton Dorsey, and he added to his secondary by landing DBs Bryant Jackson and Carrington Byndom — two more four-star recruits. Two of the nation’s top WRs also joined the class, as Mike Davis and Darius White are heading to Texas to replenish the skill on the offensive side of the ball.
3. USC: Just getting mammoth OT Seantrel Henderson Thursday afternoon would have made this class a success (Trojans fans, don’t worry that Henderson has yet to sign a letter of intent — he has until April 1). But head coach Lane Kiffin had already laid the groundwork for an outstanding class in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day by keeping many of Pete Carroll’s recruits at USC and getting some others he was targeting while at Tennessee. Five-star WRs Kyle Prater and Robert Woods — who could develop into a future starting safety — join Henderson in Los Angeles, along with the California state single-season record-holder for TDs, Dillon Baxter. And Kiffin was able to bring in Markeith Ambles, the highly touted WR out of Georgia who originally committed to Tennessee while Kiffin was in Knoxville. Dynamite job by The Kid.
4. Auburn: Gene Chizik is working wonders at Auburn. The Tigers’ class is led by five-star RB Michael Dyer, whose power, speed and balance make him the complete package in the backfield despite being only 5-8. Chizik’s other two five-star recruits — the Tigers have two more than rival Alabama — are QB Cameron Newton and OL Shon Coleman. Newton is a 6-6, 247-pound dual-threat QB who is a load to bring off his feet and an annoyance to track down. Losing RB Marcus Lattimore to South Carolina does nothing to diminish this class.
5. LSU: Very strong National Signing Day effort by Les Miles and the Bayou Bengals. WR Kadron Boone elected to bypass signing with Texas Tech, instead opting to come to Baton Rouge along with four-star DE J.C. Copeland, who backed out of his commitment with Tennessee and signed with the Tigers. Eric Reid and Tharold Simon are physically imposing top-10 safety recruits with good range, giving a disappointing 2009 Tigers defense a boost. In addition, Spencer Ware is a five-star athlete who could play RB, FB or even somewhere on defense.
6. Alabama: The Crimson Tide lost former commit Kennan Allen, one of the top athletes in the nation, to Cal on signing day. But don’t shed any tears for Nick Saban’s crew. The Tide will welcome two of the country’s best CBs in DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton to Tuscaloosa, along with Under Armour All-American DEs Adrian Hubbard and Alfy Hill. Offensively, Alabama has the nation’s top QB in Phillip Sims, who can throw as well as run. Four-star RB Jalston Fowler is a load to bring down, while fellow four-star recruit Corey Grant brings speed to the Tide backfield.
7. Oklahoma: Oklahoma snagged ATH Tony Jefferson, an explosive, speedy S/LB, along with four-star DL Eric Humphrey and athletic S Quentin Hayes, one of 16 recruits from the state of Texas. All three should be prolific in coordinator Brent Venables’ defense. WRs Kenny Stills and Sheldon McClain, along with TE Austin Haywood, could be future weapons for dual-threat QB Blake Bell. OU also added depth in the backfield, bringing in four-star RBs Brennan Clay and Roy Finch. Another great effort from head coach Bob Stoops.
8. UCLA: What a signing day for Rick Neuheisel and the Bruins. The huge addition of DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa makes a stout defense even stronger. From all indications, this kid will be a difference-maker. Getting longtime Trojans fan Dietrich Riley to come to Westwood to play safety must irk USC’s Kiffin. Under Armour All-American RB Jordon James is one of two in-state backs signing with the Bruins, along with Malcolm Jones. Both are top-10 national backs, with James likely to see action early in his career. ATH Anthony Barr could also see time at RB or on defense since he possesses enough size, speed and versatility to pull it off. LB Aramide Olaniyan and DT Cassius Marsh bring added talent to the front seven. Bottom line: Don’t count out Neuheisel and the Bruins in their revamped L.A. rivalry with USC.
9. Florida State: Jimbo Fisher probably couldn’t have scripted a better way to begin his tenure as new head coach of the Seminoles. A top-10 class? Sure is, highlighted by five-star OLB Christian Jones, who was a huge signing day bonus to add to their already formidable front-seven class — including ILB Jeff Luc and OLB Telvin Smith. Athlete Christian Green should settle in nicely at WR, while five-star CB Lamarcus Joyner could excel on offense and special teams as well. Things are definitely looking up in Tallahassee.
10. Tennessee: Kudos to new head coach Derek Dooley for holding together a top-10 class in the wake of the Kiffin mess — and have an incredible signing day. Already with seven commits on campus and in class, the Vols were able to snag Under Armour All-American OT James Stone away from Alabama after swaying huge OT Ja’Waun James away from the Tide earlier in the recruiting season. The fellow Under Armour All-American is mobile enough to be a dominant tackle in the SEC. Signing day continued to go the Vols’ way when they landed five-star WR Da’Rick Rogers, who was supposed to be headed to Georgia, to go along with fellow WR Justin Hunter. Bringing in four-star QB Tyler Bray is an underrated move, as Bray could light up SEC scoreboards once he puts more weight on his 6-6 frame. Under Armour All-American DE Corey Miller will help the defensive line.
11. California: Signing day was golden for the Bears as head coach Jeff Tedford landed former Alabama commit Allen, noted above, who Tedford noted would see action on both sides of the ball but primarily at WR. LB Chris McCain, a former Oregon commit, joins DE/OLB Chris Martin and OLB Cecil Whiteside as defenders who could eventually fit nicely into their 3-4 defense. Chris Adcock and Alex Crosthwaite are highly rated OG prospects who should help the interior of the offense. QB Austin Hinder is a four-star recruit who may be Tedford’s next project, while RB Trajuan Briggs hopes to continue down the path of productive Bears backs.
12. Oregon: The Ducks lost out on Odighizuwa, an Oregon native, but managed to pick up DT Ricky Heimuli on signing day to help the interior. CB Dior Mathis should help the secondary in the customary Pac-10 shootouts. RB Dontae Williams should succeed because they know how to recruit backs in Eugene, as should Lache Seastrunk. Homegrown Curtis White helps ease the loss of Ed Dickson at TE. Kelly may have depth at the TE position already, but it’s a role that is crucial to the effectiveness of his spread offense.
13. Penn State: Even with DT Dominique Easley opting for Florida, the Nittany Lions still signed the best class in the Big Ten. QB Robert Bolden could see playing time at some point in 2010 with Daryll Clark graduating and not many great options behind him. Bolden is both a sound quarterback and a great athlete. Defensive line help comes in the form of Dakota Royer, who could end up playing linebacker or end, DT Evan Hailes and DE C.J. Olanivan. And, of course, Linebacker U’s top-rated prospect is LB Khairi Fortt, a tall and thick prospect who should be stout against the run.
14. Georgia: Mark Richt and the Bulldogs had a signing day they’d probably like to forget. Losing Da’Rick Rogers was the biggest blow, but the Dawgs also lost three defenders who were at one point orally committed to coming to Athens. Still, there’s good talent in this class. A pair of four-star linemen in OG Kolton Houston and OT Brent Benedict should help pave future running lanes for four-star recruit Ken Malcome, who should develop into an every-down back. DB Alec Ogletree is one of the nation’s top safety recruits and the best defender in the Dawgs’ class — a Thomas Davis type of player. Richt also signed DT Michael Thornton, who once held 33 scholarship offers.
15. Notre Dame: Brian Kelly’s debut recruiting class with the Fighting Irish didn’t make a lot of headlines, and ND didn’t make a signing day splash. However, Kelly was able to keep many of former coach Charlie Weis’ main recruits while adding a few of his own who will fit his system. Ten four-star prospects are on their way to South Bend, including DT Louis Nix, who could get onto the field early, and LBs Prince Shembo and Kendall Moore. Andrew Hendrix is one of four QBs Kelly is bringing in, so he’ll have his pick of a backup to likely starter Dayne Crist. Getting OT Matt James from the grips of Ohio State was an underrated signing-day move, and WR Tai-ler Jones is a speedster who could put up numbers in the new offense.
10 more very good classes
16. Ole Miss: I thought Houston Nutt was going to pull a signing-day surprise, but nonetheless, there’s quality in this class. ATH Clarence Jackson, who could play OLB or stay at RB, is a versatile recruit from Georgia who’s a potential every-down back or an east-to-west stud ‘backer. DE was a major need for the Rebels, so high school teammates Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett fit the bill in shoring up the line. They could even see action early in their careers — along with signing-day addition Delvin Jones. In-state RB Nicholas Parker could eventually be an every-down back.
17. Clemson: All in all, head coach Dabo Swinney did a nice job improving team speed and athleticism. Athletes DeAndre Hopkins, Garry Peters and Vic Beasley all can excel on both sides of the ball, with Peters likely to end up playing in a loaded defensive backfield. Four-star WR Martavis Bryant has great size and very good speed.
18. Michigan: So Rich Rod actually makes his splash on the defensive side of the ball, eh? I love S Demar Dorsey’s signing-day decision to come to Ann Arbor because he seems to want to help put Michigan back on the map defensively — and he’ll get some help from his fellow classmates. Athletic S/OLB Marvin Robinson, CB Cullen Christian, DE Ken Wilkins and DT Richard Ash look to help a defense whose confidence was shattered all too often in 2009. Under Armour All-American QB Devin Gardner is one of the top QB prospects in the country, and Rodriguez hopes he could be the right signal caller to run his offense
19. Miami (FL): The Hurricanes didn’t bring in as many four-star recruits as I expected, but this class is filled with a lot of three-star talent with big upside that could blossom under good coaching. An RB recruit named Storm Johnson? Awesome name, awesome player. The prospect from Georgia can wear down a defense and outrun an entire unit. DTs Tavadis Glenn and Delmar Taylor are solid, while DE David Perry has great length on the line. The ‘Canes also found good value on the offensive line.
20. Texas A&M: Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman is proving he can recruit at the college level. Can he elevate the Aggies to serious players in the Big 12 South? A&M boasts a high-quality list of recruits, specifically on the offensive line, where OTs Jake Matthews — another son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews — and Under Armour All-American Luke Joeckel lead the way. The Aggies are desperate for help at tackle, so don’t be surprised to see the young linemen on the field in 2010. Defensively, A&M landed ball-hawking DB Toney Hurd Jr. and four-star DTs Ivan Robinson and Jonathan Mathis.
21. Missouri: The Tigers love to score points, and the WR trio of Marcus Lucas, Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser should help keep the Mizzou offense efficient for years to come. Tyler Gabbert joins older brother and starting QB Blaine in Columbia, one of two signal callers in the class along with James Franklin. Both should be able to handle Gary Pinkel’s spread offense. Like A&M, the Tigers landed two OTS, Nick Demien and Mitch Morse. DT Lucas Vincent will help the interior up front after adding some beef to his frame.
22. Virginia Tech: No big names? No big problem for the Hokies under head coach Frank Beamer, who knows talent when he sees it. Besides, six four-star recruits in the 2010 class isn’t too shabby. Speed rushing DE Zach McCray should fit nicely into the Hokies defense, while S Nick Dew could grow into a rangy OLB. I like four-star DTs De’Antre Rhodes and Nick Acree, who could comprise most of Beamer’s future defensive line along with McCray. This class lacks skill-position players, however.
23. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers went back to their roots, building up front on both sides of the ball, which should delight their fans. Nearly half of their commitments are on the lines, highlighted by DTs Chase Rome and Jay Guy, along with the beastly Andrew Rodriguez, an OG who will be loved in Lincoln for his elite run-blocking ability. Four-star RB Braylon Heard is a good one from the state of Ohio.
24. West Virginia: The Mountaineers endured some decommitments, but they picked up one of the best uncommitted WRs in Ivan McCartney. QB recruit Barry Brunetti is athletic and has a good arm, and big four-star OG Quinton Spain will help up front. Four real good LBs were added, including Troy Gloster.
25. Washington: Steve Sarkisian brought in a lot of three-star recruits with good upside, raiding the state of California like a good USC disciple would. This class needed to be big to improve overall team speed on both sides of the ball, and that mission looks to have been accomplished, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. RB Deontae Cooper, WR Jamaal Kearse and ATH Kevin Smith are four-star prospects who could eventually make the Huskies look like the Trojans offensively on Saturdays. Kearse could see the field early and be big in the red zone for UW. DT Sione Potoa’e leads a solid defensive line upgrade.
Solid, but just missed our list
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